I was hesitant. I thought maybe The Fault In Our Stars was going to be the better choice for an afternoon’s viewing, despite the fact that I knew I’d need tissues.  But when we arrived at the theater, Malificent was the only show playing soon – so Kathy and I bought our tickets and sat down. Maleficent

I’m not sure where my hesitation came from – just the idea of Angelina Jolie in a fairy tale, I think.  It certainly wasn’t because I didn’t want the story screwed with.  I LOVE revised fairy tales, adore them, have thought about doing a PhD in folklore so I can study them.  But still, I wasn’t enthused, even though so many friends said it was an amazing film.

GOOD NIGHT, I am glad I saw that movie.  It reminded me of something really important for myself as a writer . . . and as a human being.

Everybody has a story.  

I don’t want to give away the tale, so let me just say this – I so appreciate how the film reveals the complexity of humanity and the ways we all operate out of our wounds if we don’t find a way to heal them.

As a writer, I take these 3 lessons:

1. Backstory is really important. Even if we don’t include all or most of it, we as writers need to understand the reasons our characters make the choices they make and do the things they do.

2. Two-dimensional characters are boring. In the Disney version of Sleeping Beauty, I never paid much attention to Maleficent because, well, I knew exactly what she was going to do every time – the worst thing she could.  (For that matter, I didn’t pay much attention to Sleeping Beauty either because she was always going to do the best thing she could.)  But when there’s motivation and conflict and complexity, the characters suddenly become much more rich.

3. Everyone deserves compassion. I’ve heard it said many times that a writer needs to be able to feel compassion for every character she writes, and I think that’s absolutely true. If we cannot, we slip into stereotypes and flat characters who are not only boring but also unclear and unmotivated.  When we have compassion for each character, we are able to understand their complex motivations for their actions and convey that understanding to the reader.

And of course, this applies to us as humans, too.  When we disregard the stories people carry with them, when we stereotype them or limit them to certain choices because of our stereotypes, when we write someone off as unworthy of our compassion, we become unable to understand or love those people in a real way. But when we get to know people’s stories, when we embrace individuals for their goodness and broken-up-ness, when we do our best to understand WHY someone does something, we open ourselves to know those people as the beautiful, lovely, screwed-up people they are . . . and we give people the space to do the same for us.

So Maleficent, yeah, glad I saw that. It reminded me of some things I needed to know. . . . and it made me really want wings.

Did you see the film? What did you think of it?